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US Fights to Overturn Assange Extradition Ban – and Says He Could Serve Sentence in Australia

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The US has asked the High Court to overturn the decision that blocked Julian Assange’s extradition on spying charges.

In January, a judge said the WikiLeaks founder should not be handed over as he might kill himself in a US prison.

US authorities have now said Assange could serve any jail term in his home country of Australia.

James Lewis QC, a lawyer for the US government, said on Wednesday that the judge in the earlier case, Vanessa Baraitser, had made an error.

He said authorities had promised that Assange wouldn’t be held in harsh conditions such as a “supermax” prison or in isolation, and that any jail term following a trial could be served in Australia.

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Mr Lewis said the assurances were “binding”.

The US case also argues that Assange does not meet the bar of being so unwell that he could not resist harming himself.

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Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was one of the protesters outside the court

“Once there is an assurance of appropriate medical care, once it is clear he will be repatriated to Australia to serve any sentence, then we can safely say the district judge would not have decided the relevant question in the way that she did,” Mr Lewis said.

A large group of supporters of Assange gathered outside the hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice, including Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.

Assange, 50, is currently being held at the UK’s Belmarsh maximum-security prison.

He watched via video link from the southeast London jail and appeared to wear a black face covering and a burgundy tie.

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The hearing in London is scheduled to last two days

Stella Moris, Assange’s partner, said outside the London court that she was “very concerned for Julian’s health”, saying she had seen him at the weekend and that he was “very thin”.

“It is completely unthinkable that the UK courts could agree to this,” she said. “I hope the courts will end this nightmare, that Julian is able to come home soon and that wise heads prevail.”

England’s most senior judge, Lord Chief Justice Ian Burnett, is among those hearing the appeal, with a ruling not expected for several weeks.

Assange is alleged to have helped US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal classified diplomatic cables and military files exposing wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan that WikiLeaks later published

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Assange was detained in 2019 after Ecuador’s embassy withdrew its protection

Prosecutors in the US have indicted him on 17 espionage charges and one of computer misuse which carry a maximum 175-year sentence.

Assange’s legal team say as a journalist he is entitled to First Amendment freedom of speech protection.

The Australian was arrested in April 2019 after spending seven years under diplomatic protection in Ecuador’s London embassy.

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Original Post: news.sky.com

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WHO Estimates 15m People Have Died Directly or Indirectly From COVID – More Than Double Official Death Toll

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The World Health Organisation estimates that 15 million people worldwide have now died of coronavirus – or as a result of its impact on health services.

WHO data shows the number of excess COVID mortalities to be somewhere between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people from 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2021. This is more than double the official death toll of around six million.

Excess mortality refers to the number of people who have died of the virus either directly or indirectly by being unable to access health services for other conditions.

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The figures were compiled using country-reported data and statistical modelling, the WHO said.

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There were 14.9 million excess deaths associated with COVID-19 by the end of 2021, the UN body said on Thursday.

Most excess COVID deaths (86%) happened in Asia, Europe and the Americas, according to the figures.

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Middle-income countries accounted for 81% of deaths, with 28% occurring in upper-middle-income countries and 4% in low-income ones.

Some 68% of all excess deaths worldwide happened in just 10 countries.

There was a higher rate for men (57%) than there was for women (43%), with more excess deaths among the elderly than younger generations.

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WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus commented: “These sobering data not only point to the impact of the pandemic but also to the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems.

“WHO is committed to working with all countries to strengthen their health information systems to generate better data for better decisions and better outcomes.”

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Original Source: news.sky.com

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Pope Francis Seen Using Wheelchair for the First Time for Mobility Reasons

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The Pope has been pictured using a wheelchair – the first time he’s used one in public due to the knee pain that’s made it hard for him to walk and stand.

Francis, 85, was wheeled on stage and helped into a seat during an audience with a group of nuns and religious superiors from around the world at the Vatican.

He appears to be having a flare-up of sciatica, a nerve condition he suffers with that he’s called his “troublesome guest”.

The Pope has had to cancel or cut short activities several times in the last month because of pain in his right knee.

He was pictured in a wheelchair last July after major intestinal surgery, but this is believed to be the first time he’s used one in public due to his mobility problems.

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Before Thursday’s event, he was able to walk the roughly 10 metres or so from the side entrance of the stage to his seat with some help.

He recently received some injections to try to relieve the pain but has continued to struggle.

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His impaired movement was apparent over Easter when he attended but did not take charge of masses at St Peter’s Basilica, instead delegating a cardinal or archbishop to preside.

During a trip to Malta in April he was also pictured using an elevator platform to get on and off the plane.

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Original Article: news.sky.com

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Woman Pulled Alive From Rubble Six Days After Building Collapsed

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A woman has been found alive in the rubble of a building that partially collapsed almost six days earlier, Chinese state media has said.

At least five people are confirmed to have died and possibly dozens are still missing following the disaster in the city of Changsha, in central China‘s Hunan Province, on 29 April.

The unidentified woman has become the 10th survivor and was rescued shortly after midnight today, about 132 hours after the rear of the six-storey building suddenly caved in, the official Xinhua News Agency has reported.

The woman was conscious and told rescuers how to pull her out without causing further injury, Xinhua added.

Teams had used dogs and hand tools as well as drones and electronic life detectors in the search.

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All the survivors were reportedly in good condition after being treated in a hospital and it is thought intermittent rain showers over the last few days may have helped their chances of survival without food or water.

At least nine people have been arrested in relation to the collapse of what Xinhua has described as a “self-built building”.

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This includes its owner, on suspicion of ignoring building codes or committing other violations.

Three people in charge of design and construction were also held, along with five others who allegedly gave a false safety assessment for a guest house on the building’s fourth to sixth floors.

The building also housed residences, a cafe and shops.

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An aerial photo shows the site of the collapsed residential building in Changsha, central China’s Hunan Province

There has been increase in the number of collapses of self-built buildings in recent years.

Last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for additional checks to uncover structural weaknesses.

Following the building collapse at the weekend, he urged for more victims to be found in the rubble “at all costs”.

Poor adherence to safety standards, including the illegal addition of extra floors and failure to use reinforcing iron bars, is often blamed for similar disasters.

China also suffers from decaying infrastructure such as gas pipes that has led to explosions and collapses.

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Source: news.sky.com

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